As wildfires rage across northern New Mexico (two of which are on Taos’ doorstep), many residents face uncertainty and possible homelessness. The Taos County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has set up an evacuation center at the Juan I. Gonzales Agricultural Center at 202 Chamisa Road in Taos. Refugees fleeing the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire, devastating the the counties of San Miguel and Mora, are being housed there.
A visit to the shelter may invoke one’s imagination to images of refugee camps for displaced people in war zones, across an ocean from the United States. But these are Americans on American soil who may have lost everything they have for the sake of survival, as Mother Earth wreaks havoc.
One such evacuee, a husband and father of two named Jonathon, feels fortunate to be employed in Taos; he was commuting from Mora to his job at a Taos hardware store. They evacuated to Taos in early May.
Two Mora County property owners remained optimistic, “If we can’t tease and laugh at each other, then what’s the point of surviving?” said 76-year-old Sharlette, a New Mexico-born and Texas-raised Mora homeowner. “Our plan now is to just wait it out,” said 66-year-old Jim.
Another evacuee of the fires, a 17-year-old named Amos, went to Albuquerque in April on his motorcycle, where he booked a hotel room. That temporary living situation soon became too expensive, so he rode north to Taos where he knew people and was hoping to find work.
According to Bobby Lucero, the head of OEM in Taos, the Agricultural Center houses ten evacuees daily; people who have nowhere to turn for shelter. Among those who have alternative forms of shelter and visit the center for supplies, the Center takes in approximately 50 evacuees daily. As of now, there is no time-frame for when the evacuees will be able to return hom to Mora County.
If any concerned Taoseños would like to donate materials to the Agricultural Center, the Center has an open-door policy for donation drop-offs.
As of press time, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire is the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, consuming over 314,228 acres with 48% containment. Total personnel fighting the fire has exceeded 3,000 yet the number is slowly dropping. The Cooks Peak Fire, east of Angel Fire, was 100% contained in mid-May.
Evacuation Shelter Sites: Taos County
Penasco High School Gymnasium,
13 Old School Road,
Contact: Emma Empey (702) 743-8973
Juan Gonzales AG Center,
202 Camisa Rd, Taos,
Contact: Bobby Lucero (575) 779-9381
Taos Shelter Site for Horses and Livestock:
The Taos County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo Grounds is being utilized for livestock. Call Livestock Inspector Ruben Baca at 575-770-1490.